Constructing aspirations for graduate entrepreneurship in the age of deepening global inequalities: A social class paradox in Hong Kong?

Hei Hang Hayes TANG, Wai Sun Derek CHUN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Globally, the rise of entrepreneurial economies poses challenges to, but at the same time provides opportunities for, higher education. Universities around the world are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial, a development that can be stimulated through their graduates as the most robust source of innovative talents. In post-industrial economies with high graduate unemployment, entrepreneurship education has been touted as a potential solution to facilitate transitions from higher education to work. In the literature of higher education studies, a research gap exists concerning graduate entrepreneurship, despite an emerging body of research on graduate employment/ employability. Besides, notwithstanding the concept of entrepreneurship spirit has been attempted to incorporate in specific subjects under New Senior Secondary (NSS) academic structure, the outcome of entrepreneurship education under local education system, including higher education, still requires room for improvements. By examining the constructions of aspiration for graduate entrepreneurship, and exploring the decisive factors on entrepreneurship decision, this paper will contribute to critical studies in education on socioeconomic disparities and framings of youth aspiration through higher education, against the backdrop of deepening global inequalities. By purposive sampling, empirical case study will draw on in-depth interviews with a sample of 30 graduates embodying varying degrees of entrepreneurial aspiration and success from research-intensive universities in Hong Kong.
Positive correlations between social class and entrepreneurial intentions are revealed in the business literature as entrepreneurship founded by working class students are restricted by limited resources and collaborative networks. Paradoxically, studies have also found that lower middle-class students often have the strongest desire for social mobility and perceive entrepreneurship as a desirable pathway. Employing the analytical lens of social class, this paper scrutinises the extent to which the different discourses of entrepreneurship are perceived and acted upon by graduates from different social classes in Hong Kong. The analysis also takes in account (1) contextual variable i.e. drivers/incentives for graduate entrepreneurship in the innovation system, and (2) organisational variable i.e. role of higher education (including entrepreneurship education) to examine the processes of how entrepreneurial intention is formed among the graduates. This research found that the contextual and organisational variables do not affect the patterns of intention for graduate entrepreneurship but the moderating variables of family business background and family support, regardless of their social class, are key explanatory factors for engagement in graduate entrepreneurship. The paper illuminates issues of structure and agency in relation to young people’s aspiration and resources for entrepreneurship. Empirical analyses from this paper will problematise the positioning of higher education as a vehicle of promoting social mobility and pursuing social justice. The analyses also highlights how unique Chinese culture may impact the entrepreneurship decision in local context. Copyright © 2019 THEi AETI 2019.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


Tang, H.-H. H., & Chun, W.-S. D. (2019, April). Constructing aspirations for graduate entrepreneurship in the age of deepening global inequalities: A social class paradox in Hong Kong? Paper presented at the International Conference on Applied Education, Technology and Innovation (THEi AETI 2019): Education 4.0: Applied Degree Education and the Future of Work, Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


  • Graduate entrepreneurship
  • Graduate employment
  • Constructions of aspiration
  • Social class
  • Inequalities
  • Postindustrial societies


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